If your child is experiencing bereavement, you might be too. Make sure you have support and ask for help if you need it. Talk to someone about your mental health.
Information about grief
Every time life changes, something is lost. Loss is therefore a big part of life and some common areas of loss that children and young people face include loss of:
- Familiar environments e.g. moving house, moving school
- Significant adults
- Experience of death
Different people experience loss in different ways, and this applies to the children and young people and the adults supporting them.
Grief is a normal reaction to loss and each of us will experience change in a unique way. We cannot assume we know how children and young people will experience grief based on our own experiences.
Keep these guiding principles in mind when supporting grieving children:
- All children and young people need support from trusted and familiar adults. Most children recover from grief with this support but some need additional help.
- Everyone’s experience of grief is different so it’s important to listen to your child and try to understand what they are feeling.
- Children and young people are curious and will want to understand what is happening by asking questions.
- Learning a little bit about the grieving process can help you to support your child.
- Good support leads to healthy grieving and helps build resilience for the future.
Tips for talking to your child about bereavement and loss
- It’s good to talk and to listen; create opportunities to talk and listen to your child.
- Use simple, clear language and be prepared to repeat topics and discussion, as needed. When people have strong emotions, it is often difficult for them to process information and to recall this in the future.
- Encourage questions and remember that you do not have to have all the answers.
- Apply the Goldilocks Principle i.e. tell the child what they want to know, not too much and not too little, using language the child can understand. Keep in mind your child’s age and ability when talking to them about loss, bereavement and change. Read more about this here.
- Recognise your own emotional response to the situation and reflect with friends and family on who is best placed to listen to your child.
- Help your child with different activities to help them express their grief.
How to help children express grief:
- Writing letters and poems
- Drawing pictures
- Making a display
- Sending off balloons
- Lighting a candle
- A memorial (for example, planting a tree)
- Curating a memory box
When might your child/young person need more support?
Make sure to give your child time and space to recover, and lots of love and support. For many children, this well be enough. These are some things to think about if you think your child might need more support.
- Are your child’s feelings linked to the loss preventing them from learning and taking part in daily life?
- Is your child’s behaviour a concern to themselves and others?
- Does your child seem excessively distressed and unhappy?
- Does your child seem lethargic, depressed and hopeless?
- Has your child asked for help and do they want more help?